If you have ever seen the movie Destry Rides Again (1939), you might think you know what this book is about. I know, because I love that movie, and so I picked up this book at a cute little used bookstore up in the Shenandoah Valley thinking it would be similar to the movie. After all, the cover even touted it as the basis for the movie, as you can see.
Um, yeah, not so much. Now, the main character in both the book and the movie does have the last name 'Destry,' and there's a moment in both of them where he's in a bar and he orders a non-alcoholic drink and gets laughed at.
But that's it. Everything else, completely different. However, that doesn't mean I didn't dig this book! Because I totally did, once I got through the first couple chapters and realized that the movie does not follow the book at all. (There's a 1932 movie that looks a bit more like the book, but I haven't seen it.)
In the book, Harry Destry is a proud and boastful punk who likes to go around proving he can out-ride, out-shoot, and generally out-do any man he meets. He gets blamed for a train robbery he didn't commit, and the jury sentences him to prison because they don't like him. When he gets out of prison, he sets about ruining or killing the jurymen... and if you're thinking this sounds like a western version of The Count of Monte Cristo, well, I thought so too. And, as that's my second-favorite book of all time, I very much enjoyed that similarity! But unlike Edmund Dantes, Harry Destry has one worth opponent who nearly bests him.
Also unlike Edmund Dantes in Monte Cristo, Harry Destry discovers the emptiness of revenge before he loses the woman he loves or the boy who has helped him survive the frightened wrath of those he's hunting. The ending of this book was so full of shiny awesome that I know I'll be re-reading this book again and again in the coming years.
Particularly Good Bits:
Then silence gathered the house softly in its arms (p. 99).
Bullets fired from the saddle on a galloping horse are rarely more dangerous than a flight of wild sparrows (p. 108).
The wolf on the trail is a sleepy thing, and the wildcat is totally unobservant, compared with the eye of a young boy (p. 178).
Too much is made of guilty consciences. They generally begin to work on criminals after the stern hand of the law has grasped them by the nape of the neck (p. 224).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: A strong PG for western violence of many sorts, some mild bad language, and a lot of suspenseful situations.
This is my sixth book read and reviewed for the Adventure of Reading Challenge.